Thanks to significant funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation
(OTF), the Monster Arts for Youth (MAY)
program, through which free workshops in various disciplines of South Asian arts are offered to schools, is now available year-round for 2016/2017. Under the MAY program, schools are able to bring professional, world-class artists into the classroom to teach students about South Asian film, poetry, Bollywood dancing, visual arts, and music at no cost to schools or students.
Previously only available during the month of May, the support of the OTF allows the program to meet increased demand from elementary, middle and high schools in the Peel Region, as well as offer additional free workshops for each school. The year-round iteration of the program marks the fourth season of cross-cultural workshops, which are also generously supported by the City of Brampton.
During the recent spring 2016 session, over 1,000 students enjoyed participating in the culturally-inclusive workshop program. “We are thrilled to have the support of the OTF,” says Vikas Kohli, Executive Director of MonstrARTity and creator of the MAY program, “This grant reflects the community’s interest in and desire for the workshops offered under the MAY program. Within days of announcing year-round workshop availability, we were flooded with requests from teachers to book the program for their classes.”
Support from the OTF, the Peel District School Board
, the City of Brampton, the Ontario Arts Council
and other foundations is a direct result of the inclusive nature of the MAY program workshops. Themes of inclusion, understanding and diversity promoted in the public school system’s curriculum are reflected and strengthened by the MAY program’s goal of combatting cultural stigmas with art and expression, not based on who is teaching, but rather by what is being taught.
When the MAY program was launched three years ago by MonstrARTity Creative Community, a not-for-profit arts organization based in Mississauga, it was only available to a few local schools. At that time, the not-for-profit organization could only offer one free workshop per school. Since then, the program has grown to cover all of Mississauga, Caledon and Brampton, and MonstrARTity now offers two free workshops per school, and additional workshops at a substantially subsidized rate.
Originally created to celebrate South Asian Heritage month, the MAY workshops now provide an unprecedented way to break cultural silos in the classroom. The program exposes students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds to South Asian arts as a means to integrate cultures, introduce students to different art forms, and most importantly, express what they’ve learned in their own voice. “Under the program, students use creative learning techniques to explore different cultures and build positive cross-cultural dialogue by using arts as a medium for expression and understanding,” says Vikas Kohli.
The feedback from teachers and students about the MAY program has been overwhelmingly positive. “[It is] very important for students to be exposed to other cultures - it teaches students about the need to be inclusive,” says Wendy Murray, a teacher at Janet McDougald Public School in Mississauga.
“They [students] loved the workshop. They were engaged, excited and on task the whole time” says Allison Schiffman, a teacher at Beryl Ford Public School in Brampton.
The MAY program has featured workshops by:
Lopa Sarkar: Sarkar is the founder of the fusion dance company Divine Heritage Artistry. Her work has been showcased at festivals around the world including LUMINATO Toronto, WOMAD London, and the International Music Festival in Wales. Her dancers have performed at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, The Sony Centre, and the Air Canada Centre. Lopa has taught internationally and her instructional DVD set has sold in over 55 countries. You can learn more about her work at www.lopasarkar.com
Sheniz Janmohamed: Janmohamed is an author, spoken word artist and artist educator. She is the founder of Ignite Poets, a spoken word initiative with an emphasis on collaboration, innovation and social awareness. She has been published in a variety of journals including West Coast Line, Catamaran Literary Reader and SUFI Journal. Janmohamed also visits schools across Ontario with storytelling and spoken word workshops.
Sumit Judge: Judge is a filmmaker based in Brampton, Ontario. He runs a film workshop in collaboration with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. In 2014, he completed his first short film, Vishal, which explored the trials and tribulations of South Asian international students in North America. Vishal went on to win the Viewer’s Choice Award at the Sikh International Film Festival, as well as the Air Canada Award at the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival. Judge has proudly participated in many film festivals across North America, including the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival and the Chicago South Asian Film Festival.
Alan Faigal: Faigal has performed at many Bollywood Monster Mashup festivals (produced by MonstrARTity) as a dancer with Divine Heritage Artistry, a Bollywood fusion dance company. He began his dance journey at Culture Shock Toronto (CSTO) and his passion progressed him from a class participant, to an outstanding troupe member. Prior to Culture Shock, he trained as a fitness instructor and has been in the fitness industry for over ten years. He has been a member of CTSO for eight years. Through his sponsored dance workshops, his passion, energy and dedication inspires the youth he works with.
Desjardins is the Artistic Director of Culture Shock Toronto and a dancer/choreographer based out of Toronto. She specializes in hip hop and waacking, with experience in urban/Bollywood dance fusion, and has had her work performed all over North America. She is currently working on project bound for Los Angeles for the International Choreographer’s Showcase.
Aikat is the Artistic Director of Future Shock Toronto (a division of Culture Shock Toronto), a dancer and teacher who became passionate about dance at the early age of six. She started training in ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop and was later exposed to styles of dance closer to her cultural roots including Bharatanatyam, Bollywood and Bhangra. She enjoys fusing her Indian style with urban dance.
Interested schools are encouraged to contact MAY@monstrartity.com
to bring this program to their students.